Building the Wedge
The poll last week was a close one, but blue cheese edged out ricotta by one singular vote!
I was cool with this result because blue cheese is in my top three favorite cheeses and ricotta is only in my top ten.
I decided to tackle a salad that doesn’t get a ton of love even though it seems to be on every American restaurant menu: The Iceberg Wedge Salad.
These strange things are found in restaurants all over because they are a quick menu-filler that can be tossed on a plate in a minute or two and shoved out the prep window.
Surprise surprise, most wedge salads suck. They don’t suck because they have to suck, they suck because they get no attention to detail.
We can do better though with some carefully chosen toppings and a quick and easy homemade blue cheese dressing.
1) Cook bacon using your favorite method for getting it very crispy. I prefer to bake mine on a wire rack at 350 degrees F. for about 20 minutes until it’s very crispy.
2) You can also make croutons at the same time by tossing some bread cubes with a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. Roast those while the bacon is crisping until they are lightly browned. They will continue to crisp up as they cool.
3) For the dressing, stir together sour cream with buttermilk. Season with salt and pepper and fold in 3-4 ounces of crumbled blue cheese. Feel free to adjust the consistency of the dressing to your liking. Some like it thicker or thinner.
4) Assemble each salad by chopping a big head of iceberg into quarters. Pull apart the lettuce a bit and drizzle each quarter with dressing. Top with crumbled bacon, croutons, cranberries, scallions, avocado, and extra blue cheese.
That’s just the start of topping options. Go crazy.
Iceberg Wedge Salad
People tend to focus on the negatives of iceberg lettuce, namely, that it has no flavor.
That’s not really an issue in this case because we are going to pile on tons of flavor. A blank slate is welcome actually.
So instead, let’s focus on the positives. First, iceberg lettuce is crisp and cooling. A crispier lettuce cannot be found (that I know of).
It’s also really easy to prepare because you just rinse off the head of lettuce and chop it into quarters like so.
This is about as simple as a blue cheese dressing can get: sour cream, buttermilk, a dash of vinegar, lots of blue cheese, and a pinch of salt and pepper.
You could add other things like shallot, chives, garlic, and red pepper flakes, but this is a great base for a quick salad dressing.
Most importantly, stir it up and taste the dressing before you put it on anything. Don’t be rigid with it. If it needs more creaminess, add some extra sour cream. If it needs more acid, add another dash of vinegar.
Always feel free to add more blue cheese. Always.
I only went with 4-5 toppings for this salad, but they were carefully chosen.
First, croutons. Homemade is best. Any stale bread will do the trick. Just toss cubes with some olive oil and salt and pepper and toast them at 350 degrees F. until they are lightly browned and crispy (10 minutes or so).
Dried cranberries are a great topper. They are like little hidden gems of sweet in the final salad.
Avocados give some extra creaminess to the salad and sliced scallion greens give some bite and color to it.
Oh… and bacon.
Bacon always improves an Iceberg Wedge Salad.
I just used a few left over strips from my BBBLTs. You can crisp up leftover bacon very quickly by wrapping it in a few paper towels and microwaving it for a minute. It’ll get really crispy.
When you’re ready to build, place a wedge on each plate and kind of pull apart the lettuce leaves a bit.
Then drizzle on some dressing and start piling on those toppings. There’s no need to add a ton of any one topping. They are just accents.
Except blue cheese. You can always add more blue cheese.
The finished Iceberg Wedge Salad is actually pretty elegant looking. From the side view, it’s impressively high.
Give the iceberg its due, people. Let it shine by being a crispy, blank slate for delicious other things.
And remember, if you are in doubt, more blue cheese.